A leading bishop in Bangladesh's capital city is warning Christians that fanatical Islamic groups are killing people they deem as non-believers.
"We are aware, concerned but not alarmed. Fanatical groups are spreading death, but we hope that the government can control them. The pastoral and social activities of the Church continues," Mgr. Theotonius Gomes, the Bishop Emeritus of Dhaka, told Fides News Agency in a report on Tuesday.
Islamic radicals in Bangladesh have publicly targeted atheist writers and bloggers in the past few years, with extremists reportedly operating on a list of targets they claim have insulted Islam in online postings.
Persecution watchdog groups such as Amnesty International have accused the central government of not doing enough to protect non-Islamic minorities in the country.
"Some of these killings have been claimed by extremists — but they have been facilitated by the official failure to prosecute anyone responsible," said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International's Bangladesh researcher.
"The prevalent impunity for all these cases continues to send a message that such attacks are tolerated by the authorities. Ending impunity and ensuring protection for those at risk must be a priority for the Bangladeshi authorities."
BBC News reported last week that Xulhaz Mannan, a top gay rights activist and editor of the nation's only LGBT magazine, was also hacked to death recently, a crime which was condemned by U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh Marcia Bernicat.
"I am devastated by the brutal murder of Xulhaz Mannan and another young Bangladeshi," Bernicat said.
"We abhor this senseless act of violence and urge the government of Bangladesh in the strongest terms to apprehend the criminals behind these murders," she added.
Christian converts from Islam have also been killed, including 68-year-old Hossain Ali, who was hacked to death in March in the northern city of Kurigram. Islamic radicals were once again suspected by police of having carried out the crime.
Bishop Gomes told Fides that the situation in Bangladesh is complex, with local Islamic extremist groups seemingly inspired by the Islamic State, the terror group that holds territory in Iraq and Syria.
"We proceed cautiously and carefully, we are aware of the situation, but our pastoral, educational, social activities continue," he insisted, noting that Christianity is barely a 1 percent minority in the country, while the Catholic Church only has 300,000 faithful — or 0.2 percent of the population.
Mohammed Shahriar Alam, state minister for foreign affairs, denied that IS is growing in Bangladesh, but admitted that there are homegrown extremist cells.
"There is an effort by a group of people in different parts of the country — probably being supported from foreign lands — to destabilize Bangladesh," Alam said earlier this year. "We are not immune to what is happening in the rest of the world. But the government is determined not to allow them to succeed."